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Millisecond precision psychological research in a world of commodity computers: New hardware, new problems?

Abstract

Since the publication of Plant, Hammond, and Turner (2004), which highlighted a pressing need for researchers to pay more attention to sources of error in computer-based experiments, the landscape has undoubtedly changed, but not necessarily for the better. Readily available hardware has improved in terms of raw speed; multicore processors abound; graphics cards now have hundreds of megabytes of RAM; main memory is measured in gigabytes; drive space is measured in terabytes; ever larger thin film transistor displays capable of single-digit response times, together with newer Digital Light Processing multimedia projectors, enable much greater graphic complexity; and new 64-bit operating systems, such as Microsoft Vista, are now commonplace. However, have millisecond-accurate presentation and response timing improved, and will they ever be available in commodity computers and peripherals? In the present article, we used a Black Box ToolKit to measure the variability in timing characteristics of hardware used commonly in psychological research.

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Correspondence to Richard R. Plant.

Additional information

This research was first presented during a symposium at the Society for Computers in Psychology (SCiP) conference, Long Beach, CA, November 15, 2007.

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Plant, R.R., Turner, G. Millisecond precision psychological research in a world of commodity computers: New hardware, new problems?. Behavior Research Methods 41, 598–614 (2009). https://doi.org/10.3758/BRM.41.3.598

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Keywords

  • Rapid Serial Visual Presentation
  • Onset Delay
  • Display Duration
  • Parallel Port
  • Digital Light Processing